WORLD Please don't stop the music: The UK eases COVID-19 restrictions for weddings

WORLD

Please don't stop the music: The UK eases COVID-19 restrictions for weddings

CGTN

09:08, June 22, 2021

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How many people can you have? Can you dance? What about the buffet?

While lifting the remaining UK lockdown measures is on pause, weddings are now able to go ahead with no fixed size limit, providing social distancing is observed.

But couples and events planners are frustrated that testing and vaccination status can't be used to open up weddings in the same way it's being used to make football matches accessible.

"We were supposed to get married in August last year, then we moved it to July 11 this year and we are now trying to work out what to do and It looks like we are going to move it to October this year – fingers crossed," said Sarah Balfour, concert pianist, music agent, events planner, and most poignantly, bride-to-be.

She and fiance Lloyd Michaels are managing expectations of their own big day, sending out a we hope you can "save the date" to family and friends.

"To not have music and dance doesn't make any sense – it is so important for the party spirit, to get the party started," she said.

"It is all about the music and entertainment, so that is why we have decided to hold out and keep changing it until we get the wedding that we want."

Brides are ditching the classic princess-style wedding dress for simpler models. /CGTN Europe

The UK's rules around weddings still seem quite vague.

They will be allowed to go ahead with as many people as the venue permits.

The couple can have the first dance and cut the cake. Guests have to be seated in groups no bigger than six. What's not allowed is dancing indoors or stand-up receptions – and singing is strongly advised against.

"In an ideal world I would like the government to say, 'everything is open, let's go, let's go full-steam ahead, lets get weddings back to their glory days,'" said Toastmaster Jonathan Waterman.

"The amount of revenue stream is huge," he said.

"You're looking at a toastmaster, photographer, a videographer, wedding cars, hair and makeup, favors, decor, celebrants, entertainers, magicians, wedding dress, catering ... it is literally limitless, within your budget."

Toastmaster Jonathan Waterman's own wedding photo. /CGTN Europe

The wedding industry typically generates $20.5bn in revenues a year and provides work for 400,000 people. But the pandemic meant a huge amount of wedding business has been lost or deferred.

And adapting to be COVID-19-safe is pricey. Victoria's Bridal Boutique in Orpington, Kent, spent thousands of dollars on a "Zoom station" for remote appointments and a new storage area.

"At the moment, I have 280-plus extra dresses in this shop, so I have had a special storeroom made in the back for postponements because the dresses have to be kept at a certain temperature with no moistness, no direct sunlight and things like that," said owner Vicky Lamb.

The huge ecosystem of wedding industry suppliers has felt the pinch this year. But Balfour's Orchid Events is confident things will turn around.

"My clients have moved to September and October as a starting point. My overseas work is booking up from next April, when people might feel more comfortable traveling," she said.

Her agency, Music by Arrangement, is working hard to get her musicians performing again in venues around London.

"I think it will all bounce back," she said. "I am feeling a buzz around me, getting enquiries and feeling positive. It won't happen overnight but 2022 will be a better year for everybody."

Vicky Lamb, too, is positive for the future. "It would be lovely to have the brides and their bride tribes coming back in, the feeling in here when you've got everybody all excited with a glass of fizz in your hand is just absolutely lovely," she said.

"We haven't had that exact moment for over a year-and-a-half now and that would be something that we as a team would love to have back."

But the limited change in the rules for weddings means that moment can't happen yet.

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